How Not To Direct APEC Traffic

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - November 23, 2011

The fancy threads were in vain. Photo from Dan Boylan

An old friend, an esteemed member of the local Bar, invited my wife and me to sit at his law firm’s table at a dinner honoring Philippines President Benigno Aquino. It was to be held in the Tapa Room of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Sunday, Nov. 13, APEC’s last official day.

As my 11 regular readers know, my wife is a locally born Filipina and no Filipina worth her bagoon is going to allow her palefaced husband to attend a dinner for the Philippines president in anything but the proper attire. That meant a new barong tagalog.

So Glo took me to Maureen Clemente, a Filipino wedding shop in Kalihi, where she bought me a handsome new one, plus the requisite undershirt to go with it. She bought herself a lovely Filipino puffy-sleeved top and, on a later trip to the not-soFilipino Macy’s, she purchased a new black skirt and pair of shoes, as well.

As the photo accompanying this week’s “Mostly Politics” makes clear, on the afternoon of the Aquino dinner Glo looked spectacular, every bit the Miss Kapalapala Filipina she was as a Manoa undergraduate. And I? Well, I looked like an old, overweight white guy in a nice Filipino shirt.

The Aquino dinner began at 7, so we departed our home in the exclusive Pacific Palisades section of Pearl City at 4:30 p.m. The directives sent out by the dinner’s organizers warned that those coming from the west should stay off of H-1 and take either Dillingham or Nimitz into town. Expect heavy traffic on Ala Moana and a security check at Atkinsion Drive. Cross the bridge over the Ala Wai Canal and proceed to the Hilton.

Problems started before we could get out of Pearl City. We stayed off of H-1, but Kamehameha Highway ran under it and high muckamuck after high muckamuck was traveling from Ko Olina to the airport at that hour. So those of us passing under H-1 had to wait. Which we did, endlessly, it seemed for 25 minutes, in fact.

Didn’t budge. Not an inch, held up by police and helmeted National Guardsmen so that, I don’t know, we couldn’t fire our bazookas, I guess, through the underpass and into the bellies of those armored plated vehicles passing overhead?

It wasn’t pleasant, for I am not a patient man. Plus, I am an impatient man with a gawdawful bad back of many years disintegration, who had forgotten his drugs. And sitting beside me was a woman who, as my 11 regular readers also know, I have referred to, affectionately, of course, as the high-strung Filipina because she does not always have a calming effect.

Finally, after the last of the high muckamucks had passed overhead, we were allowed to proceed, without further interruption via Nimitz and Ala Moana Boulevard to the latter’s intersection with Piikoi at the ewa end of Ala Moana Center.

There we again faced gridlock. For the next 50 minutes we alternated between sitting and inching, sitting and inching, sitting and inching: three lanes of us. I gritted my teeth. I swore. At one point, after sitting stock still through four successive light changes, Glo said, “You should get into the righthand lane.”

I didn’t swear at her. I was too busy swearing at the police, the Secret Service, Barack Obama, Hu Jintao, Dmitry Medvedev, the members of the APEC Host Committee and the gods.

Finally, we reached the Atkinson Drive security checkpoint. We could see the bridge beyond: entrance to the promised land. But there was no check nor any cars on the bridge, and the police waved all three lanes of traffic up Atkinson. I was near tears; the highstrung Filipina threatened violence. Maybe at Atkinson and Kapiolani they’d direct us right, around the Convention Center and, finally, into Waikiki.

But no, the police waved both lanes of traffic left, heading ewa on Kapiolani, toward Pearl City, toward home.

Sorry, Mr. President.

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